Surgical FAQs

What You Need to Know Before Your Pet’s Upcoming Surgery

Many people have questions about various aspects of their pet’s surgery, and we hope this information will help.

Is the anesthetic safe?

Today’s modern anesthetic protocols have made surgery much safer than in the past. Here at All County Animal Hospital, we do a thorough physical exam on your pet before administering anesthetics. We also adjust the type of anesthetic used depending on the health, age, and breed of your pet.

Every dog and cat will need blood testing before surgery to help decrease the risk of anesthetic complications. Even apparently healthy animals can have serious organ system problems that cannot be detected without blood testing. All pets receive IV fluids, EKG, blood pressure, and oxygen level monitoring.
We choose which blood panels to send out to the lab based on your pets age and/or prior existing conditions. These comprehensive screens give us the information we need to help ensure the safety of your pet. For geriatric or ill pets, additional blood tests, electrocardiograms, or x-rays may be required before surgery as well. We ask that you call to schedule a visit to have your pets blood drawn at least one day before the scheduled surgery, and not more than a month before. This visit will only take a few minutes, and we will call you with test results the next day in most cases.

It is important that surgery be done on an empty stomach to reduce the risk of vomiting during and after anesthesia. You will need to withhold food for at least 8 to 10 hours before surgery. We will usually tell you to make sure your pet has no food after midnight before surgery. Water can be left down for the pet and picked up the morning of surgery. For information on fasting for exotic (non dog/cat) species, please call for recommendations.

Will my pet have stitches?

For some surgeries, we use absorbable sutures underneath the skin. These will dissolve on their own, and do not need to be removed later. Many surgeries do require skin sutures. With either type of suture, you will need to keep an eye on the incision for swelling or discharge. Most dogs and cats do not lick excessively or chew at the incision, but if your pet does so, an Elizabethan (cone) collar or clothing can be used to prevent this. We now carry a full line of Pro-collars, which look like an “inner tube”. These collars are soft, inflatable, and very comfortable for your dog to wear 24/7. Most dogs accept these types of collars very readily and they can be used following most procedures. We also carry Post-Surgical clothing designed especially for pets in order to discourage chewing or licking!

If there are skin sutures, these will usually be removed 10 to 14 days after surgery. Some normal activity may need to be limited, depending on the procedure. Bathing should wait until sutures are removed. Full detailed discharge instructions will be sent home with your pet.

Will my pet be in pain?

Anything that causes pain in people can be expected to cause pain in animals. Pets may not show the same symptoms of pain as people do; they usually don’t whine or cry, but you can be sure they feel it. Pain medications needed will depend on the surgery performed.

For dogs, we will give an injection of pain medication before surgery, and we may dispense an oral pain reliever/anti-inflammatory for several days after to lessen the risk of discomfort and swelling. Depending on the procedure, a combination of medications may be dispensed.

Because cats do not tolerate standard pain medications such as those that are commonly used in dogs, we are limited in what we can give them. Recent advances in pain medications have allowed for better pain control in cats than ever before. We will administer a pain injection prior to surgery and send home appropriate pain control medication afterward.

Providing whatever pain relief is appropriate is a humane and caring thing to do for your pet and this aspect of care is very important to us.

Please do NOT give over the counter human medications to your cat or dog! Medications such as Tylenol, Aleve, Motrin, etc. can cause severe illness and even death! Aspirin has a much higher chance of causing gastrointestinal bleeding than safer prescription alternatives. ALWAYS ask your veterinary professional before giving any medication to your pet other than what has been prescribed.

What else do I need to know?

While your pet is under anesthesia, it is the ideal time to perform other minor procedures, such as dentistry, ear cleaning, or implanting a microchip.

Surgeries are usually scheduled in the morning. When you drop off your pet, we will need you to spend a few minutes filling out the surgical authorization form. Most pets will be scheduled to go home later that same afternoon (cat declaws will stay until the following day). When you pick up your pet after surgery, we will go over any discharge and medication instructions and answer any questions you may have.

We will call you the day before your scheduled surgery appointment to confirm the time you will be dropping your pet off and to remind you about fasting instructions. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to call us with any questions about your pet’s health or surgery.